Small talk is truly one of the most under appreciated arts of conversation there is. While some people seem to do it effortlessly--holding the attention and conversation of small audiences for as long as they choose--for others it can prove to be quite a challenge.
Fortunately, there are easy things you can do daily for small talk training.
- Stay informed: Incorporate reading a newspaper, checking current events online, or watching the morning or evening news into your daily routine. This can be as simple as setting aside twenty or thirty minutes every day to catch up on social, economic, or political issues. Before you can even engage in small talk, you must have something to talk about. Current affairs come up very frequently during small talk, and you must give yourself the knowledge to contribute to the conversation.
- Work on your listening skills: Before you can become a good writer, you must be a good reader, and the same goes for conversation. You must learn how to be a good listener to elevate your own level of speech, and this certainly applies to small talk. Make sure you are not just hearing, but really listening--pay attention to facial expressions, hand gestures, and other body language that may give further insight into their argument. If you are generally not an animated person, you can use these cues in your own conversation.
- Just practice: Regardless of your problem with making small talk, it is no different than anything else--you will not get better without practice. If you are uncomfortable, start initiating a conversation among a group of friends or family members. You will only get better and better at translating the information you have gathered into actual conversation. This is great small talk training in a stress free environment.
- Never deal in absolutes: Train your mind to understand that you will not always be right during small talk. For many the concept of being wrong is a challenge, especially on a subject they feel educated about. This does not matter at all in small talk. Nobody wants to talk to the proverbial person that "thinks they are always right", so train your brain to be open to other perspectives. Regardless of where your information came from, even if you yourself are being as objective as possible, the person who presented the information to you has their own prejudices and opinions which always comes through. Give others their turn to speak, regardless of how passionate you feel.
- Get up and do it: This is often the hardest part about engaging in small talk--the pressure of actually engaging in it. Practice will only take you so far--even if you feel uncomfortable, do not show it. Small talk is one part confidence, and one part information, and one part conversation skills. If you do not feel comfortable engaging, than start by listening and chime in when appropriate.
Whether in a social or professional setting, small talk is extremely important. It can impress co-workers or bosses, or make you the life of the party. Improving your small talk skills by doing a few simple training exercises every day can make all the difference.
Read my follow-up post with 5 more tips to daily improve your conversation skills.